Orange County bus service is expected to not be interrupted Monday after the Orange County Transportation Authority agreed to resume negotiations with the union representing 150 maintenance employees.
Orange County was bracing for a bus strike as OCTA maintenance employees broke off contract talks and were scheduled to begin their walkout at one minute past midnight Monday morning.
But the OCTA said in a release Monday morning bus service will continue with some delays possible for passengers. The OCTA and the union were contacted by the Gov. Gavin Newsom's office Sunday requesting parties continue negotiating.
"OC Bus is a critical public service for tens of thousands of Orange County residents and stopping service would unnecessarily harm those who rely upon us including students, seniors and workers who have no other means to travel," said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, also the Mayor of Orange. "For all of our riders, I'm very happy that service will continue."
A best and final offer was presented to leaders of Teamsters Local 952 on Sept. 22, but it was rejected.
"We remain committed to doing what it takes to avoid a labor action that would disrupt transportation services for thousands of daily Orange County riders," said Eric Jimenez, Local 952 Secretary-Treasurer. "However, we stand united with our members in the fight for a fair and equitable agreement."
The union's agreement expired Sept. 30. It covers 150 mechanics, machinists and service workers with OCTA. The negotiations started on May 25 and there have been 25 bargaining sessions through the summer. Union leaders accused OCTA of not bargaining in good faith.
"We believe that setting a budget before bargaining even begins and failing to address the issues that occur in the course of bargaining is an unfair labor practice," Jimenez said. "An entity is not bargaining in good faith if it makes up its mind about what it will offer before bargaining even begins."
The dispute is over salaries and benefits.
"OCTA must address wages, health care costs, the lack of pension increases for well over a decade, and some key non-economic issues," Jimenez said. "We are ready to consider any revised proposals OCTA may have in mind, and we have provided them with available dates this week so we can sit back down at the negotiating table and come to an agreement to avoid a strike."
Murphy said, "There's no reason we can't continue negotiating to reach a resolution without putting the burden on bus passengers."
But OCTA officials warned commuters to make alternate plans just in case.
OCTA managed to stave off a strike by the same union in February when it reached a three-year agreement with bus drivers.
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